Holiday Plants

Mary Ann Ryan
Adams County Master Gardener

So many plant choices to brighten up your home for the holidays! What may work for you, may not work for someone else. It's always a good idea to learn about the plant before you purchase it for yourself or as a gift so disappointment doesn't follow.

Cyclamen is a winter flowering plant and not the easiest to grow, but certainly is rewarding to see bloom all through the winter months. The most important thing to remember when trying to grow a cyclamen is to realize that it grows best in cool temperatures and likes plenty of sunlight. A cool sunny window in a cool room would be the best location for this plant. Temperatures that get above 68̊F are not beneficial for prolonging the life of a cyclamen. Watering the cyclamen can be tricky. Be careful not to over water; this will cause roots to rot. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. Be sure to discard the excess water that drains into the saucer about 15 minutes after watering.

The cyclamen will bloom from October through April. When the temperatures become warmer, the plant stops producing flower buds. As the summer progresses, often times cyclamen will go into a state of dormancy. The plant will stop growing leaves, and often appear to be dying. Continue to keep the plant alive through the summer months, keeping it as cool as you can, and giving it plenty of sunlight inside and continue watering. When the fall months approach and the nighttime temperatures begin to drop, you will see an improvement in your plant's behavior. Its leaves will perk up and it will begin to produce flower buds again. Before you know it, the plant will be back to its old self and ready to perform for you during the winter months!

Christmas cactus is enjoyed by many over the holiday season. It also prefers a good sunny and cool location. It requires a dryer soil than many houseplants, so let it dry out between watering. In order to get this plant to re-bloom, it requires a cold period in the fall. The plant can be set outside during the summer in a shady location. After a few cool nights (temperatures dropping to 40̊F) in the fall, bring it back inside and put it in a sunny location. It needs the cool temperatures to trigger the flower buds to set. Before you know it, the Christmas cactus will be blooming for you again!

Amaryllis is another popular holiday plant. There are different ways you can receive this bulb. Sometimes it's just the bulb, other times it's in a pot, and sometimes it's in a pot with soil. The container that you choose should be large enough to support the root system and the bulb. Be sure the container has good drainage and use an average houseplant potting soil.

When planting the bulb, allow for about 1/3 of the top to be above the soil level. Water the bulb after it is planted and continue to water as you would any other houseplant. Give it a sunny window, and the cooler the location in you home, the less top heavy the plant will get. Before you know it, you'll see a flower spike, buds, then blooms!

After it's finished blooming, cut the flower stem back to the top of the bulb. Continue watering. Leaves will grow quite long. Don't cut them. After blooming, it especially becomes necessary to fertilize as these bulbs are heavy feeders. Use a slow release complete fertilizer that lasts a few months or a complete liquid fertilizer a few times per month.

Continue to care for the bulb as you would any other houseplant. After danger of frost is over in the spring, the bulb can be planted outside or continue growing it in a container. When the leaves begin to yellow, usually when nighttime temperatures drop in the fall, it's time to give the bulb a rest. Cut off the leaves. Dig up the bulb if you planted it outside, brush off the dirt and store it in a cool, dry place for about 6 weeks. If you kept it in its container, let the soil dry out, and store it in a cool, dry location.

After about six weeks, repot the bulb and begin to water again. Before you know it, you'll be enjoying the flowers of the amaryllis for another holiday season!

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